07/05/2005 11:00PM

Veitch starting in new position as chief steward

Cliff Reed
A synthetic Polytrack tops the new Turfway surface, expected to open for training by Aug. 15.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - John Veitch, who earned widespread fame as the trainer of Alydar in the late 1970's and who has worked in a variety of capacities in the racing industry since then, will begin a new career as chief steward for the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority when Ellis Park opens its summer meet Wednesday in Henderson, Ky.

Veitch, 60, said he has "always respected and admired the people in the stewards' stand, so it pleases me very much to have made it to this level."

The appointment of Veitch by the horse racing authority follows a lengthy orientation period. Veitch, who has worked since last fall as deputy executive director for the racing authority in Lexington, completed the University of Arizona's steward-accreditation program last winter, and has been shadowing the stewards at Keeneland and Churchill Downs since April.

Veitch, whose late father, trainer Syl Veitch, is in the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame, has a lengthy resume in racing. He trained for Calumet Farm from 1976 to 1983 and became well known as the trainer of Alydar, who finished second to Affirmed in all three Triple Crown races in 1978. Veitch then trained for about 15 years for the Galbreath family's Darby Dan Farm, with his greatest victory during that period coming with Proud Truth in the 1985 Breeders' Cup Classic. Veitch resigned that position to train in Saudi Arabia for Prince Faisal bin Khalid in 1999.

He returned to Lexington some two years later to take a short-lived job for Henryk de Kwiatkowski, who had purchased Calumet and was trying to revive its grand tradition. Veitch then worked as a trainer for John Ed Anthony for about two years before going to work for the state racing authority last fall.

Veitch also has done extensive work as a television commentator on racing broadcasts, having worked the Triple Crown for ABC in 1982 and 1983 and the Breeders' Cup for NBC from 1990 to 1998.

Veitch has been a Hall of Fame nominee in the trainer category in each of the last three years, passed over for Sonny Hine in 2003, Shug McGaughey in 2004, and Nick Zito in 2005.

In his new role, Veitch replaces Mickey Sample, who had been interim chief steward for the last 18 months or so. Sample replaced Bernie Hettel, the longtime chief steward and executive director of the Kentucky Racing Commission, the forerunner to the racing authority. Hettel was asked to resign in February 2004, shortly after the administration of Ernie Fletcher, Kentucky's first Republican governor in more than 30 years, took office.

After the Churchill meet ends Sunday, Sample will be on temporary leave until the end of this month. A resident of Grove City, Ohio, Sample will remain employed as a racing official, most likely as an association steward on a rotating basis and possibly in other capacities. The other stewards at Ellis, whose meet runs through Sept. 4, will be Butch Becraft and Barbara Borden.

Rick Leigh, who with Sample and Becraft has served as a steward at Churchill Downs, is the longtime racing secretary at Turfway Park and is employed as a steward only at Churchill and Keeneland.

New Turfway surface nears completion

Construction workers at Turfway in Florence, Ky., began installing the final layer of its new Polytrack surface this week. The track's president, Bob Elliston, said Wednesday the project has been tentatively scheduled for completion the week ending July 22, well ahead of the original target date of Aug. 2.

The final phase of the construction follows the installation of a stone base and a secondary layer of macadam, a porous, blacktop-like surface that serves as a highly efficient drainage system. The top layer will be seven inches of Polytrack, the weather-resistant surface made up of of recycled rubber, polypropylene fibers, and wax-coated silica sand.

Turfway, which long has been plagued by weather-related cancellations during winter months, is banking on the success of the revolutionary Polytrack, which has been in use for nearly a year on the five-furlong training track at Keeneland.

Training over the surface will start no later than Aug. 15, which is when the track traditionally opens for training, said Elliston.

"If we can get horses on it earlier, we will, just so that we can get an impression from horsemen as early as we can," he said. The fall meet runs Sept. 7 to Oct. 6.

Besides the new track, Turfway has also installed a new inner safety rail and is renovating its paddock and winner's circle.

Ellis to test for alkalizing agents

Ellis Park has announced that prerace tests for alkalizing agents, or milkshakes, will be performed on a random basis at its upcoming meet. The track will become the third in Kentucky to use the tests, following Keeneland and Churchill.

Ellis considered mandatory testing of all horses, but general manager Paul Kuerzi said he and other officials "felt confident that random testing would be effective as a deterrent while being much less disruptive to horsemen."

No horses have tested positive for alkalizing agents in Kentucky since testing began in April.

Stakes veterans head feature

An exceptionally good Friday card at Churchill is highlighted by a $68,200 allowance race in which a couple of stakes-proven veterans, Crafty Shaw and M B Sea, figure as the top contenders in a field of seven. The 1 1/16-mile feature is the ninth of 10 races on a twilight card that begins at 2:45 p.m. Eastern.

Four other allowances (races 2, 4, 7, 8), along with a starter-allowance turf route (race 10) also are carded for Friday. The fourth race, a $53,300 second-level allowance for fillies and mares, drew the promising Atlas Valley, most recently fourth in the Dogwood Breeders' Cup Stakes.

Two juvenile stakes close meet

Medium-sized fields appear likely for the twin 2-year-old stakes that close out the Churchill meet, the $100,000 Debutante on Saturday and the $150,000 Bashford Manor on Sunday.

The 5 1/2-furlong Debutante, for fillies, is expected to be headed by Dance Daily, Enth, and Swept Gold. The six-furlong Bashford Manor, for colts and geldings, will have Music School and the California shipper What a Song as probable favorites. Both races carry a Grade 3 ranking.